Generational trends determine the subject of tattoos

14408715128_d0f17a12ca_zPhoto Credit: Sascha Kohlmann[/caption]

Tattoos have evolved extensively over generations. Older generations expect tattoos to be simple black-ink tattoos while tattoos in modern society have become much more intricate and colourful.

Sheila Collins is a 75-year-old who has noticed this change in the theme and the design of tattoos. Tattoos, much like fashion, seem to be influenced by the cultural trends of the era. For Claudia Verwey, 25, who has grown up seeing all kinds of tattoos, the increase in the number of people with tattoos has not gone unnoticed. Even with the generational gap between the two women, it is clear that members of society, no matter the age, are slowly becoming more accepting of tattoos and tattooed people.

Q: How popular were tattoos when you were younger?

Sheila Collins: Not at all, it wasn’t in fashion.

Q: Did you know many, if any, people who had them? 


Photo Credit: Jonas Strandell

SC: My uncles had tattoos on their arms, from the Second World War. All different ones, like names of their mothers or their wives or their girlfriends. They were noticeable and a lot of the men that came back from the war had them. We didn’t pay too much attention to them, though. The average man didn’t have them, only the ones that were in the war.

Q: Would you say they are more popular now than they were?

SC: Yes, definitely. There weren’t any tattoos done by ordinary people from after the war, ’til the present-day craze. It was not in fashion in the past up until now. So, yes, they are more popular now.

Q: Why do you think tattoos have become more popular and more appealing than they used to be?

SC: I don’t really know, maybe it’s just fashionable. Because of very clever advertising and because the public figures have them, it has become fashionable for everyone to have them.

Q: What sort of changes have you noticed in the theme of modern tattoos?

SC: The modern day ones are more extreme, they really aren’t subtle at all. They are all mostly very noticeable. They also didn’t have lots of colour in them, back in the day, they were just basically black. Now they come in lots of different colours.

Q: What is your personal opinion on tattoos?

SC: If I was to have a tattoo, I wouldn’t hide it, I would want people to see it. If I had gone to the effort to have it done, I would want to show it off to everyone. If you are prepared to pay to be hurt then go for it, but I personally wouldn’t pay someone to hurt me.

Q: How do you view people with tattoos?

SC: If that’s what they want then its fine. It’s their choice. Everybody is individual. What I like, others might not like, which is good because we can’t all be the same. So maybe their tattoos show that they are different.


Photo Cred: William Cho

Q: Would you say that tattoos have grown in popularity?

Claudia Verwey: Yes, I think they really have. There seems to have been quite a lot more of them in the last 10 years or so.

Q: Do you know many people with tattoos?

CV: I would say at least 70 per cent of the people I know have tattoos and most of them have more than one. I started noticing how much more popular they were becoming when I was in school. Lots of my friends got tattoos in the middle of their backs. It seems to have been the trend of that time but now it isn’t just one tattoos here and there, there are a lot more people that get sleeves and a tattoos all over their legs, also.

Q: What do you think has caused the increase in popularity of tattoos?

CV: I think it was a big fashion statement at one point, everyone was getting it, singers, actors, and it was a trend that just hasn’t stopped because fans see the tattoos and do the same thing. There are a lot of people that get tattoos and the styles, shapes meanings are all different from rocks stars, who have tattoos all over their body, to young girls at school with a typical butterfly tattoo. It can be seen as art or as a statement or even a meaning. There are lots reasons why people get tattoos and I think that it will always be popular for a long time. There also seems to be more options now of removing tattoos, so there isn’t really that fear of permanence anymore. I think people get it intending to have it forever but at the back of their mind there is probably still that comfort that if they don’t want it anymore they can just go have it removed.


Photo Cred: David Schexnaydre

Q: What is your personal opinion of tattoos?

CV: I’ve always really liked tattoos and wanted to get one but I’ve never been brave enough. I think about these tattoos I would really have liked to get but then I never did, thank goodness, because like two years later I changed my mind about it. I think we are always changing and evolving and growing and a tattoo will always be there, so I think it has to be important enough that no matter what changes you go through in life, it will always be meaningful. I have decided, though, that I will never get a tattoo. Even though I could have it removed, I think it’s just too permanent for me. The thought of it always being there actually scares me and even when you get it removed, it still leaves a scar, so there will be a permanent reminder of it.

Q: How do you view people with tattoos?

CV: I respect them. It’s such a big decision to make and I actually appreciate the fact that they are brave enough to take the step and make that change. I always play it safe and they don’t and it’s not just a tattoo anymore it’s art. Tattoo artists are doing incredible work and it just get more amazing every day. I’m not saying that I don’t judge people by their tattoos. Sometimes it’s funny when you see random tattoos and wonder what they were thinking, if they were even thinking, or if it was some on a drunken night or because they lost a bet. There are so many reasons why people get tattoos and it isn’t our place to judge them or form an opinion about them. How can we generalize, when my reason for getting a tattoo is different to your reason for getting a tattoo. It’s a very personal process a person goes through and it’s their own.

Shannen Johnson-Barker

South African stuck in Canada trying to find something interesting about it all. Potential journalist, if all goes well that is. Enjoy exploratory adventures through journalism and searching for unusual stories that are potentially interesting.


  • Avatar
    Reply November 10, 2014

    Pricilla Westlake

    What a great story. The pictures are phenomenal, vivid, well placed, and tell so much to the reader. I found the Q&A interview format you used to display your story to be very effective both visually and aesthetically. It not only breaks up the text for easier reading, but it also allows readers to ascertain exactly what Sheila Collins and Claudia Verwey had to say in response to your questions. I enjoyed the fact that you interviewed a young woman and an older woman, as doing so strengthened your points and demonstrated the popularity of tattoos over time. Well done.

    • Shannen Johnson-Barker
      Reply December 6, 2014

      Shannen Johnson-Barker

      Thank you Pricilla I really appreciate the feedback. I enjoyed doing these interviews it was interesting to see the different generational opinions.

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